Usually 30 voices but on occasion as many as 100, the singers combined a penchant for varied vocal effects (their staggered breathing in God Save the Queen left a generation of Canadians gasping), a healthy, blended sound, and strong showmanship. They toured in Canada and, beginning in 1951, in the USA (where they were heard on MBS radio) and sang for many years at the CNE Bandshell. The repertoire, mostly unaccompanied, ranged from Palestrina to folk and popular arrangements and transcriptions, many by Bell himself.
Besides appearing in three NFB films - Christmas Carols (1947), It's Fun to Sing (1948), and Choral Concert (1949) - the Leslie Bell Singers recorded Christmas songs for RCI (166) and RCA (The Story of the Nativity, LCP-3001), pop songs for Dominion (Sentimental Journey, Dom 1203), and folksongs from English Canada for RCI (167).
Lois Ogilvie Blanchette, Marian Antliff Owens, Joyce Sullivan, and Margaret Zeidman were among the more than 1000 who at one time or another were members of the choir. The singers disbanded after Bell's death in 1962, but were responsible for establishing in 1973 the Leslie Bell Scholarship (later Prize), an annual (biennial after 1987) competition for choral conductors.
Author Alan H. Cowle
Gough, R.I. 'Leading man to 80 women,' SatN, 25 Dec 1948
Links to Other Sites
Leslie Bell Prize for Choral Conducting
An information page for the Leslie Bell Prize for Choral Conducting. See also a brief biography of Leslie Richard Bell. From the Ontario Arts Council.